The Dos and Don’ts of Football Fan Behavior

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Going into my eighth year as a football season ticket holder, I’d like to take a moment to talk to you about something near and dear to my heart: fan behavior.

I’ve thought about becoming a college professor just so I could teach a class on the subject, but instead of getting another graduate degree and going into debt, I’ll share my thoughts right here, for free.

::stands atop tiny soapbox::

Having attended 60 games in the past few years, I have strong feelings about fan behavior. Football stadiums are joyous places filled with loyalty, passion, and contagious energy, but they are also fragile ecosystems that are easily disrupted, and as is usually the case, human beings are to blame.

With the football season rapidly approaching, I present to you my top 10 Dos and Don’ts of fan behavior. If you are already a great fan, this list will read like sweet vindication. If you’re not, this is my gift to you. Some of these items will make you a better fan, whereas others will just make you less annoying to the people around you. It’s a win-win.

Ten Dos and Don’ts of Fan Behavior

  1. Know basic facts about “your” team

This is not hard. If you call yourself a fan, you should know something about your team. I’m not saying you need to recite the roster all John Nash-like, but every fan should know the name of the head coach and a handful of the more well-known players, such as the quarterback, running back, receivers, and linebackers. You should also know your team’s win-loss record, your biggest rival, and what conference your team plays in. The beauty of this is, not only do you earn a little street cred, but you’ll also get more enjoyment out of the games when you’re invested in the team.

  1. Be on time

Don’t be that person who arrives halfway through the first quarter and disrupts everyone as you squeeze down the row to your seat, stepping on toes and spilling garlic fries as you go by. Instead, be early enough to watch your team warm up, or at least run onto the field, and listen to the National Anthem. Come on, you’re not a monster.

  1. Do not insert your school into the National Anthem

When someone is singing The Star-Spangled Banner in any context you stop what you’re doing, remove your hat, and listen. Singing along is also acceptable as long as your singing voice doesn’t resemble someone swinging around a bag of cats. Football is important, but this particular song is not about a football team. Americans did not die in wars so that the University of California fans could sing the letters “UC” instead of “you see” during the National Anthem. That was not what Francis Scott Key had in mind.

  1. Learn your team’s traditions

Every team has little rituals that fans engage in throughout the game. For instance, Stanford fans jingle keys during kick-offs, do a sort-of patty-cake-pointing-motion to signal a first down, and jump in the air at a particular point when the band plays All Right Now. Learn these traditions and do them enthusiastically (except as noted below).

  1. Eliminate ‘The Wave’

The Wave is not a team tradition; it is a way to entertain yourself when you’re bored, like playing cards. Imagine 60,000 people playing solitaire while watching football. Let me be crystal clear here: you are attending a game and that is your entertainment. Doing The Wave, especially during a close game (head explodes at the mere thought), is disrespectful to the players and coaches.

  1. Wear your fan gear… if your team is playing

Imagine for a second that Alabama is playing Auburn. You should probably arrive wearing Alabama gear, Auburn gear, or perhaps an “I heart the SEC” shirt. Imagine what might happen to you if you sauntered into the stadium in a Florida shirt or a Louisiana State hat. No, don’t. It’s too gruesome.

  1. For the love of God, shush ya mouth when your team is on offense

Other than people wearing visors, this is my biggest pet peeve.

I’m obviously not talking about scoring plays; I’m referring to when the offense is in the huddle or lined up. Your quarterback is trying his best to communicate the next play to the rest of the offense. He’s trying to do this in a matter of seconds and with a ton of adrenaline running through his veins. Hear me when I say this: your caterwauling is not making it any easier for him. Let me give you a real world analogy: imagine that you’re giving a big presentation at work and a group of your well-meaning friends screamed like they were on fire from beginning to end. You know they’re there to support you, but would that distract you at all? Right.

Which brings me to my next point:

  1. Make ALL THE NOISE when your team is on defense

That thing I said above about quarterback communication? That’s what we’re trying to prevent here. Particularly on third down, you’ll want to Party Like It’s 1999. Clap! Scream! Stomp! Your defense thrives on the energy and you make things really hard for the opposing team. Besides, speaking without a raspy voice on Sundays and Mondays is completely overrated.

  1. Remember that you’re a human being

You love your team! You’re passionate! Anyone your team plays is your mortal enemy! I love your dedication and enthusiasm, my friend. But there are rules: no throwing things onto the field, no cheering for injuries sustained by opposing players, and no fighting with other fans. Human first, fan second.

  1. Do not harass players on social media

This should be obvious, but sadly it isn’t.

I’ll set the stage here: so-and-so player just made a mistake, and it cost your team a win. You are angry and angry and…did I say angry? But as bad as you feel about this, I can honestly say that the young man who missed the kick, or dropped the touchdown pass, or fumbled the ball feels a hundred times worse. Do not make matters worse by harassing them on Twitter, Mr. Keyboard Warrior. Give the 18-22 year-old, unpaid student-athlete a break. You’re not perfect either.

Phew. It feels good to have that off my chest. And it feels even better to know that football is back. Let’s make it a great season, fans.


Main Photo:

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